Student Experience Blog

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Shakespeariencing Life

I've always said that if you're bored at The College of Idaho, you're probably living under the bed of your dorm room. There is always something exciting happening on the campus, and even though it's sometimes as simple as hanging out with friends and doing homework, there are also times like today where you can casually walk across campus to catch a performance of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet.

The Idaho Shakespeare Festival, one of the state's premier acting companies, runs an annual touring group they call "Shakespearience," which travels to the state's secondary schools and higher education institutions in an effort to educate young theatergoers about Shakespeare and spread appreciation for the arts. They perform a condensed version of a popular Shakespearian work every year and take it on the road--if I remember correctly, one of the actors said that they still had at least 60 performance dates booked through the end of the school year. That's some serious dedication.

Today they made a stop at C of I, which was pretty awesome timing for me. Not only am I taking a class about Shakespeare this term, the Shakespearience group happened to be visiting at a time when I had no class to attend, and when I had enough of a lull in my homework schedule to take in one of my favorite plays of the Bard, which we had just covered in class a few weeks ago. I hadn't had the opportunity to see Shakespearience since I was in high school myself (which feels like a lifetime ago, now that I'm about a month away from officially becoming a senior in college). When I had heard from Dr. Spencer, our resident Shakespeare expert, that we would be hosting Shakespearience, I made the room in my schedule for it. It wasn't something i wanted to miss.

I certainly wasn't disappointed with the performance; far from it, actually. The passion of the six actors who had taken the stage was clear even when I had arrived early and they were just setting up their minimalist set. They joked with one another, with the people in the audience, with anyone willing to listen, really, as they performed vocal warmups like lip trills and tongue twisters. They had already given a performance elsewhere earlier in the day, but none of them appeared to be exhausted or unwilling to perform this material for what must have been the 4,234th time (a rough estimation, of course). One of the actors mentioned that they still had around 60 performances booked from now until the end of the school year all over Idaho, which has to be wearing even for the most dedicated actors, and yet everyone was all smiles and were rearing to get started once it became time to begin the play.

There's no other word to describe the acting other than phenomonal. Anyone who has read Romeo and Juliet knows that there's more than just an hour's worth of material, and there are certainly more than six characters involved in the show. Not only did the company have to find a way to cut certain parts out without damaging the continuity of the play, they also had to pull double (and in some cases triple) duty playing more minor roles in addition to their larger ones, and everyone was involved in the quick set changes the play regularly went through. It's a lot of hustle and multitasking in addition to focusing on character delivery, and yet every actor pulled it off without a single hitch. Some of the acting was absolutely heart wrenching in its power; the scene in which both Romeo and Juliet learn of Romeo's banishment from Verona was a total showstopper, a tour de force for both the leading roles and those that supported them. The production was fabulous and left me wanting to see even more.

It's always a good day when you can go from doing a bit of homework in a library to attending a Shakespearean play in the space of a couple hours and a short, 60 second walk. And the best part about C of I is that this sort of this happens all the time.

-Clayton Gefre

Clayton is a junior creative writing major from Meridian, Idaho.